I could feel my eyes start to sting as I fought back tears.
Should I be crying? Is this professional?
“Denise” read a letter from her then nine-year-old son, begging her to stop taking drugs so that they could be a family again. It was heart wrenching to hear.
The three of us spent the day shooting a video for the treatment facility I worked for. I glanced at the filmmaker. He was concentrating on the shot. And while he was visibly affected by the content of the letter, he did not flinch.
Earlier that day, Denise told me how she would bring her twin girls to the park and watch them play from her car. She would smoke and talk on her phone.
She learned how to play with her kids in rehab.
I watched as she playfully kept her twin girls entertained, answering our questions while we filmed.
Why am I fighting these emotions?
Denise’s addiction got to the point where she could not feel anymore. If she didn’t complete treatment this time around, she would go to jail for four years. She told these things to me in a very matter-of-fact way.
I was in awe of her strength. I had heard other women in similar situations say the easy way out would be to just go to jail.
Denise kept the letter from her son in her pocket as a reminder of why she needed to stay sober.
I went through a range of emotions that day – anger, sadness, disbelief, confusion, hopefulness, pride. I couldn’t help but think that a few wrong decisions could have put me in the same situation. We were the same age. We were mothers. And, yet, our outcomes were so different.
In the beginning, I was painfully aware of my reaction to her story. In its entirety, it’s difficult to fathom. I couldn’t figure out if I should react to it or not. I was not a counselor, yet I was still representing the treatment center where she was still a client.
Too often we mask our emotions when we really just need to feel them.
I am reminded of Jimmy Valvano’s famous ESPY speech after winning the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. He was dying of cancer and well aware of his precious few moments left on Earth. In the speech he noted, “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day.”
My day with Denise showed me that it’s OK, and necessary, to feel. We laughed. We cried. And she made me think more than I had in a long time.
It was a heck of a day.
Do you fight your emotions?
Jennifer Barbour is a copywriter, blogger, aspiring author and new media consultant. She aims to inspire, to entertain and to make you think. Her passions are writing, philanthropy, her awesome family and bacon, though not necessarily in that order. You can find out more at anotherjennifer.com.